Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tax Time

Tax Time.

‘Tis that time again.  Grumble grumble!  Snurffle Phorp Frazzle-futzitz! Gord-Dimmed Fupping Thiefs!

These and other bitter sounds one might expect to emanate from one such as me.  Alas, no! I actually don’t fear the tax-man! 

I am glad that I pay taxes.    No, really!  Let me explain.

I have been one of the fortunate people who has grown up in a lower-middle-class, working family.  Able to see my peers growing up in better surroundings, with better toys, nicer clothes, and shinier families.  When I left the town and bitter memories, moving away from it all, I thought I was near the bottom of existence.  Boo-hoo-hoo! POOR ME!  It took a couple of years to snap out of my blue funk, but eventually I did.  I went to College; Chef School.  I was there recruited into the Naval Reserve, eventually able to apply for a posting with the U.N. Peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights.

This was the first time I had ever travelled abroad, and for a young kid of 23 – still wet behind the ears, full of vinegar and urine, it was a great opportunity.  I didn’t know what to expect.  We were flown into Montreal from all over the Country to spend two weeks orientation-training.  Then after our brief stay, getting to know each other and the Streets of Montreal, we were flown to Tel Aviv Airport.  We landed and were acclimated to the late-summer heat of the middle-east as we waited to clear customs inside the CF Jet (a 737 I believe).  We then boarded one of the two CANLOG UN Busses which took us on the long trip to the base.  As we drove through Tel Aviv, there didn’t seem too much different with what we were used to; traffic, stores, gas stations, people, billboards. The Cars were mostly Japanese or German (Subarus or Mercedes for the most part!) The people were mostly brown-skinned and dark-haired with UZIs and MP5s.  The billboards mostly in Hebrew, with Arabic and a hint of English.  But overall, Tel Aviv looked like any other Major centre.

As we left the City, however, it was apparent that the infrastructure stopped, or at least hiccupped!  Along the rural roads, litter, potholes, scrub-bush and the like was the norm and the further you got from any town, it was quite obvious that services from any government agency lessened. We got to CANLOG (Canadian Logistics) Camp Zouanni which is situated on the Israeli side of the temporary border between Syria and Israel.  The roads to the camp are kept quite well, but not quite to the standard that we in Canada are used to. 

After staying and working there in CANLOG for the first couple of months, and being able to travel around as much as I did, (we cooks worked 10 on and 4 off: every 2 weeks was a long weekend!) I saw the countryside of Israel and was able to get to Damascus in Syria too.  Everywhere I went, there was not what I’d call abject poverty – they hid it well! But rather, the people didn’t know of the things that we would take for granted. Things like street-lights, sidewalks and covered sewers. OK, ok… it wasn’t like thiseverywhere, but it wouldn’t take anyone too long to be able to see and feel the difference.

I was able to catch the weekly flight from Tel Aviv to Lahr, Germany for my leave.  I rented a car and drove around Europe.  It was an obvious change from the Middle East. Germany was clean and well kept! (The countryside was rich and green!)  Austria: mostly the same!  France: dirty and grey (well at least it was where I went!).  I was in Europe at a very special time in its history. It was late January, 1989, and the Berlin Wall had been broken just two months previous.  Now as a member of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces, I was not permitted at the time to go to any country that was a member of the Warsaw Pact. However, this time in history was never going to come around again, so I and one of my CANLOG buddies, also on leave, drove to Berlin.  At this time, Berlin was locked inside what was then East Germany, and we had to drive on one of the “Closed Highways” which was a direct route from Leipzig.  As soon as you passed through the gates at the border it hit you: the Poverty!  East Germany’s landscape along the highway was barren and bleak. Grey and still (yeah, yeah… it was in the middle of winter… I know!  But it’s true!), there was an obvious change from the clean crispness of the west to the raped eastern landscape. When we arrived in the city (West Berlin), things seemed to go back to how it was in West Germany; clean streets, manicured gardens and no litter.  The transformation was obvious.

Holiday over, I went back to the Golan.  Back to the job. Back to seeing what the world could become if nobody cared. That is what it is there.  Sure, there are people who care. They care for themselves.  They might care for there families. They might care for their own fences.  But the neighbours?  In the Middle East, fences, walls and borders are what they care most about.  And especiallywhich side of the post the razor-wire is on!

I have brought back two signs from my travels, one from the Golan, the other from West-Berlin.  The Israeli sign is sadly obvious, the German one also (if you can read German).  The Berlin sign is painted on a phosphorescent background (ready to glow at night!) and says something like “Caution, when there is snow and ice, it gets slippery!”  Both signs warn of danger.  Are both from civil nations?

Tax time always reminds me of this point in my life.  When I was young.  When I went travelling.  When I saw reasons to feel as fortunate as we all should be.  Next time you walk to the corner store and don’t worry about being suicide-bombed, be happy that you pay taxes.

…deductions from space 17 on your T4c go on line 153.  Subtract line 153 from line 152…

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